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Solar System (2nd Ed)


Published 1977


Tom Smith headed up the Special Effects team at Industrial Light & Magic, where he created all the goodies for the 'Star Wars' films. This is his academic film masterwork, which took over a year to create, over 13 weeks to film, and utilized "traveling mattes," with as many as five separate films running in the background, showcasing wonderful models and graphics. About the making of the film, Tom Smith writes:

"I made that film in 1976 with Richard Basehart as narrator and a classical music score recorded in the Soviet Union... this was the film that turned my career toward visual effects. We shot it in a large rented space in the back of a West Los Angeles dress factory. We hung large black curtains to keep out light out from the factory but we could still hear the sewing machine whirring away behind the curtain. They were making bathrobes at the time, out of fluffy material. It took months of preparation before we could shoot our first frame of film. We laid down a forty foot stretch of track of parallel plumbing pipes and put down a camera support whose movements were on a geared guide so every increment of movement could be controlled with the turn of a wheel. Nearly all of the shots involved a moving camera. It was like animation with three dimensional model planets instead of cell images. We found the best material for the planets was hard wood. So we hired a Hollywood cabinet shop to make nine spheres for us, about 18 inches in diameter. These were sanded and painted to match images in astronomy books and observatory photos. Shooting one frame at a time meant we never got more than a few seconds of film shot in a day. One long shot involved the camera moving in on Mars. The first long day’s work was ruined. As the camera came in on the red planet, a large piece of fuzz came into frame, sitting on the planet. It had drifted down on the sphere from the dress factory."


Run time 20m
Producer Thomas G. Smith
Production Company Permission to display this film was granted by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
Sponsor Tom Smith
Audio/Visual sound, color

Reviews

Reviewer: ej23 - - November 17, 2009
Subject: They don't make em' like they used to.
Watching this movie reminds me of how much I used to enjoy watching documentaries and educational films. It's too bad documentaries like this are not made, or at least shown too often.
Now a days we are forced to watched, "rating driven" fodder, that seems to be intended for the
"numb" or those lacking normal brain function.

Oh well, I guess who should have seen it coming.

Maybe one day, the aesthetic and tone of this film, will make a come back.
Reviewer: tracey pooh - - September 26, 2008
Subject: pretty great w/ old school lighting
ok so i was the "ideal" 7 years old when Star Wars came out ... 8-)

but it's hard not to just love the unmistakable combination of film plus real models plus real lighting! the painted planets and lighting on them are terrific and make modern era overuse (IMHO) of CGI effects pale in comparison.

the narrator is good and the information very high quality.
you totally want there to be life out there...

-carl sagan "Cosmos" fan

PS: there may be some minor interlacing issues and/or video buffering size issues on the original MPEG2 (YMMV). i wound up dinterlacing with ffmpeg and it looked better on my mac but hit some video buffer size limit overruns (best i can tell)
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